Photonics has the potential to transform the telecommunications industry, as well as to revolutionise robotics and automation processes, advanced medicine and wearable technologies and quality control checks in different sectors.

Photonics studies how to use photons, the elementary particles of light, to transmit information. Until now, it was mainly based on silicon devices, which limited speed and applications, as well as offering energy-inefficient solutions. Today, thanks to the development of new materials such as graphene, photonics offers new possibilities, from the creation of more sustainable communications systems to the manufacture of broad-spectrum sensors for autonomous vehicles and robots. Light technologies have revolutionary applications.

Photons are the elementary particles of light. Technically, they are the quantum manifestations of the electromagnetic phenomenon and carry all forms of electromagnetic radiation, from gamma rays and X-rays to microwaves and radio waves. Photonics is the field of science that studies how to generate, detect and manipulate photons to exploit their properties in applications such as lasers, integrated circuits and telecommunications. Photonics began to develop in the 1960s, when all these technologies were dominated by electronics, which uses streams of electrons (elementary particles of electricity). Harnessing photons opened up a world of possibilities: they are faster, thus allowing more efficient applications. Today, photonics is so integrated into our daily lives that we are often unaware of its importance. The Internet as we know it would not exist without fibre optic-based communications, which use photonics to emit, transport and capture information-laden photons.

In addition to the streaming and video conferencing, we see applications of photonics every time we pass the supermarket checkout; low energy lasers allow us to detect barcode information and automate the creation of a shopping receipt. Advances in photonics have led to the creation of low-power LED displays that keep our mobile phones powered all day long. But photonics will also be to the 21st century what electronics was to the last century: it will accelerate the creation of more efficient (and therefore less polluting) telecommunications networks, the automation of industrial processes and the development of new applications in fields such as medicine and quality control.

In Europe, the photonics industry is laying the foundations for the new digital economy, directly employing 300,000 people and dedicating a large part of its revenues to research and development. And over the next few years, the industry is set to grow to one million jobs by 2030, according to the European technology platform Photonics21. Recently, Photonics21 announced a public-private partnership within the research and innovation programme 'Photonics21'.Horizon Europe'. 100 billion into the development of photonics to ensure our competitiveness in the face of ambitious projects in China, South Korea and the US.